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Santorini is one of the most iconic Greek islands with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Most of those people come for the Caldera views and sunsets, the pretty Oia village and the fantastic wine. But the island has beaches too, including 6 with Blue Flag awards.
They’re not the gorgeous long swaths of white sand you’ll find in Naxos or Mykonos. But Santorini’s famous black volcanic sand beaches are still stunning against the blue skies and turquoise waters.
And they can be just as relaxing if you want to spend a day chilling at one of the island’s beach clubs or somewhere more secluded. If kicking back’s not your thing you’ll find boat trips, water sports and kayak tours there too.
Quick Overview of Santorini’s Beaches
- Perissa Beach for access to touristy restaurants and Ancient Thera
- Perivolos Beach for upmarket beach bars and watersports
- Kamari Beach for touristy shops and a great diving centre
- Vlychada Beach for a romantic, unique moonscape environment and a relaxing beach bar
- Red, White and Black Beaches for a half-day boat trip or kayak tour
- Capo Colombo for a quiet beach near Oia
- Monollithos Beach for a family-friendly beach close to the airport
Here I’m going to give you a list of the best beaches in Santorini based on what you’re looking for as well as a few words of advice.
What You Need to Know About Black Sand Beaches
Because the island of Santorini is a volcanic island, the coarse sand is actually black pebbles. They’re pulverised rock left over from when the active volcano did its thing and covered the island in lava and ash.
Because these are small pieces of volcanic rock left over from the volcanic activity they can get very hot in the sun. Make sure you have some flip flops or water shoes/sandals to protect your feet.
When Can You Enjoy the Beach in Santorini?
Although I have swum at the end of April you’ll probably enjoy the Aegean Sea more from about the middle of May if it’s nice and warm outside. It’s best from June and until November although you could find it bearable even in December.
Perissa and Perivolos Beach
The main beach in Santorini, and probably the most well known, runs along the southeast coast of the island. This approximately 5km long beach combines the beaches of Perissa, Perivolos and Agios Georgios right at the end. All three sections have been awarded Blue Flag status.
Perissa Beach is a popular tourist resort, as is Perivolos. So along the whole stretch, you’ll find plenty of sunbeds, beach bars, tavernas, hotels and tourist shops.
If you want a beach day but aren’t staying in the area then it’s well served by public transport. You can get buses from Fira (check online for the timetables as they vary month to month). There’s a decent-sized car park / parking lot in both Perissa and Perivolos if you’re driving.
At the Perissa end, the scenery beyond all the tourism is quite stunning as you have Mesa Vouno Mountain behind you. If you don’t want to lounge around all day you can walk up it to the chapel in the rock or even all the way to the remains of Ancient Thera for the best views of the area.
When you’ve worked up an appetite stop at Frazescos along the seafront for some highly recommended fish. Check the piece you want from inside the restaurant to get the freshest one.
In my opinion, the Perivolos end is a slightly more sandy beach. At Perissa there are more rocks in the water which makes getting in for a swim a bit harder. (Although not at all impossible and some sections are clearer than others. Just take your water shoes to protect your feet and a snorkel if you fancy it.)
Along this section, there are some classy beach bars. Forty One 41 is a good choice, although it’s not cheap. If you want even more VIP then try Seaside. They both have restaurants, sun beds and beach umbrellas.
For one of the more traditional Greek tavernas then head to Savvas Popeye beyond both of these.
If you want to do some water sports, then Extreme Water Sports at Perivolos is a great place to go.
It comes highly recommended and they have everything you can think of. You can go out with them on the jet skis, try SUP, kayaking, parasailing and a load of other exciting things.
The beach resort of Kamari is the other really popular seaside tourist destination. It has the same dark sand but the beach isn’t as long as at Perissa.
In the area, you have the expected slew of touristy shops, cafes and tavernas plus a respected diving centre. Like the beaches above, Kamari 1 & 2 are Blue Flag Beaches.
If you need a beach read then pick up some summer reading at Books Etc just up from the beach. For cocktails try The Finch.
Red, White and Black Beaches Santorini
These beaches are in the Akrotiri area and are three of Santorini’s most famous beaches. In the summer months, they can get very busy.
The best way, and in some cases the only viable way to reach them is by boat. Close to the archaeological site of Akrotiri, there’s a small port with sea taxis running between these beaches if you want to visit them independently. Alternatively, you could join a boat day trip or sunset cruise that includes them.
Red Beach, known in Greek as Kokkini Beach, is definitely one of the most famous beaches of Santorini. And certainly one of the most photographed. The red rock formations behind the beach are what give it its name. Red-brown pebbles from the rocks mix on the beach to create unique sand.
Despite the fact that in recent years the beach has been technically closed for safety it’s still a very popular beach. The red cliffs are somewhat unstable and subject to landslides.
I’d recommend that you go to the viewing point or see the beach from the sea and leave it at that. Certainly don’t lay your towel out at the bottom of landslide or under one of the shaded areas the overhanging rocks create.
Yes, you might want to make your own decision about the risk. But if you get clonked on the head with a massive boulder, someone else has to come in and get you out, and that puts them at risk too.
If you insist on staying at the beach at least go to the organised section (with the umbrellas) which isn’t in the direct route of falling rocks.
If you’re ready for some food when you visit I recommend Cave of Nikolas which is beyond the sea taxi stop.
How to Get to Red Beach
Drive – Head for Akrotiri ancient site. Opposite the entrance, there’s a paid car park you can use and then walk down to Red Beach. But you can get a bit close if you turn right just after the big car park. Follow the road past some tavernas and tourist shops and you’ll come to some parking places at the end. Go past the church for the trail to the beach.
Bus – get the bus that runs from Fira to Akrotiri. It’ll drop you at the end of the main road by the harbour. Walk a few minutes back the way you came and take the turning on your left and follow the road to the church. From the church, it’s a short walk along a trail to the viewing area. Carry on past there if you’re going to the beach, but again, I’d recommend taking photos from the and then heading off.
Boat – From the port at the end of the main road get a sea taxi to the Red, White and Black beaches. Note that in 2022 the boat didn’t stop at Red Beach, it only takes you past to see it from the water. Alternatively, choose a day cruise that visits Red Beach.
Hike – If you’re a hiker, you can take hiking route 12 from the actual village of Akrotiri. The trail passes over the beach and along the cliffs to Mesa Pigadia. You can continue on to the Akrotiri Lighthouse but I’d arrange some transport back from there.
A little further along from Kokkini beach is White Beach. Like Red Beach, White Beach gets its name from the rocks behind it. The name only refers to the white cliffs though. The sand on this small beach is the usual black volcanic pebble sand on other Santorini Beaches. So don’t go expecting white sand.
White beach has lovely crystal clear waters and sea caves to explore. Being less accessible than some of the other beaches you’ll likely see some nudity here.
In terms of getting there, I’d really recommend going on the boat. The road isn’t good and the so-called walking route along the rocks is highly treacherous.
Black Beach / Mesa Pigadia Beach
Although all the beaches have black sand, Mesa Pigadia is the Black Beach we mean here. It’s probably the best of the three beaches to spend time if you want to have facilities on hand. There are three rows of sunbeds set at three different prices that I think are quite good value. The beach also has a family-friendly taverna to enjoy lunch.
In terms of access, the dirt road down is quite a bad dirt track so be prepared for that. It’s probably best to get the sea taxi from Akrotiri.
While it’s a pleasant beach, be aware that a lot of the volcano and hot springs daily boat cruises stop in the water here for lunch. The deep blue waters just beyond the shallow ledge at the beach also make it a good dive site too. So it can get busy with boats.
Staying around the Akrotiri area, if you’re into adventure you might prefer Caldera Beach. It’s not one of the best places for lounging because of the rocks. But it’s a popular spot for snorkelling and there’s a dive centre at one end. It’s a quieter beach experience with an opportunity to clamber on and explore the rocks.
Getting there: head for Akrotiri and follow Google Maps. If you don’t fancy the narrow road down when you turn off from the main road then park at the top. There’s a paved parking area/viewing point on the main road and you can stroll down from there. It’s about a six minute walk from the parking. Allow a bit longer to get back up the hill.
Another of Santorini’s beaches with Blue Flag status and an interesting backdrop is Vlychada Beach. Vlychada is in the south of the island and has a port that’s busy with fishing, catamaran and yachting cruises.
If you access the beach from this side there’s a small car park at the side of the road and a few more parking spots around the harbour. This end of the beach has a section of sunbeds and umbrellas for reasonable prices.
I think it’s worth accessing the beach from the other end. From the main road, it’s about a 7 minute drive. Turn where the Tomato Industrial Museum is signed. Then turn off to Theros Wave Bar and Eros Beach which is where the paved road becomes a dirt road.
Don’t worry, it’s a decent one. The good news is it’s wide and flat without a load of stones. A normal car will get along it, no problem.
As you get closer to the beach you’re transported to an other-worldly moonscape, it’s a beautiful place. The strong wind has sculpted the soft rock here into lunar shapes that run behind the beach. When you come to the end of the road you’ll find Theros Beach Bar in relative isolation.
If you’re planning to go there you can park in their dedicated car park. Otherwise, stop in the wide section on the road just before. Head towards the water and walk left to get onto the main Vlychada Beach.
Capo / Cape Columbo Beach
Capo Colombo (and variations of that spelling) is one of the island’s quiet beaches, despite being fairly close to Oia. The best time to go is in the morning when this north-easterly beach catches the sun. With crystal clear waters it’s the perfect place to escape the bustle. The peace is helped by the fact there aren’t any beach bars or organised beds/umbrellas so prepare accordingly.
As with other parts of the island, the rock is unstable and subject to coming loose. To be on the safe side, I wouldn’t get too close to the rocks at the back if you’re looking for shade.
Things to know:
- because this beach is somewhat secluded you mind find some nudity here
- there are large rocks in the water so take water shoes
- take care if you’re swimming as it can catch the wind and the waves can be high
Vourvoulos Beach is another on the east coast of the island. As with others, it’s not one of Greece’s most beautiful beaches. However, it’s away from the crowds in the see-and-be-seen spots on the southeastern beaches.
It can have calm water although with the northerly wind the waves can really pick up. Take water shoes with you, not so much for warm sand here but for the large pebbles you need to navigate over.
One of the best things here is there is a bit to explore as you walk along the beach (fishermen’s sea caves and a little harbour). The beach has some umbrellas and beds, showers and toilets (the condition of which can be dubious). The taverna at the end of the beach generally has friendly service and fresh fish.
Close to the airport, you’ll find Monolithos Beach. If you’ve got a wait between check out and your flight consider stopping here. It won’t take much time to get to the airport when you need to leave. And you can watch the planes go over as you wait for yours.
Monolithos is a long, wide stretch of beach with a similarly interesting background as some of the others I’ve mentioned. Its location and size mean this doesn’t get overcrowded despite it being easily accessible by car.
The main section is family-friendly with shallow waters and softer sand than in other places. But like many of Santorini’s beaches, it can have big waves when there’s a strong north wind. Indeed there’s a kite surfing place based there.
If you want something a bit fancier then the beach extends to Exo Gialos and Karterados Beach where you’ll find a couple of beach bars at either end.